Blog 10 – Two Stories : Confluence of school of thoughts

“Science knows no boundaries.. a philosophical thought of one could become a clue or inspiration to another, generating big discoveries”!!

Our brain works in a funny way. It actually fires in random.. and in that sense, each one of us is born creative..!  The conventional education, on the other hand, does not give freedom for such random navigation of our thoughts. It captures it in compartments.. of science, commerce, engineer, finance, accounts and so on… Therefore, I have always felt that too much of training makes your brain so compartmentalized that it refuses to listen and understand the knowledge generated in another compartment.

by John Kay,print,1785

But discoveries do not happen in such compartments at all… Therefore, I guess, not everybody can be a scientist… in order to generate that capacity, looking outside our own compartment is essential… It is a clue, which can fire neurons in different ways and generate un-imaginable perspectives, evolving path-breaking discoveries.

Let me tell you 2 different stories today. These are independent stories, but are phenomenally linked together…. which will, hopefully, generate the flavor of what I have said here.

Story 1: Take 1: Year 1687. Issac Newton came up with his very popular Laws of Motion. He made these laws in the time frame when mathematics was highly deterministic. Every mathematical equation will have a unique solution, was considered as the “only” fact. His laws became very popular and they fitted with extreme accuracy for any object, be it a cannon ball or a cricket ball in movement on this planet earth. His laws dominated the scientific arena for more than 200 years..!!! till Heisenberg and Einstein arrived on the universal stage. Well, how was Einstein inspired to do what he did… ??

Let me continue story 1, after a small break… while I tell you Story 2…

Story 2: Year 1744. Two clergymen named Alexender Webster and Robert Wallace used to work in Scotland to serve the church priests and the Scottish King. The wealthy Scottish King and the priests were worried about the fact that how their wives would be taken care, after their demise. They were concerned over the fact that after they die, their wives may not have the kind of life they were having at present. They were looking for solution then, when Webster and Wallace started thinking on the possible solutions. They started their thought process to imagine as to what would be the average age of each priest or a King, what would be the average age at which they would die and how long would the wives live, after their demise, on an average. Further, how many such priests would be there, for whom they should make a model. They found out that there is sufficient data recorded by few people (Edmond Halley – Table of mortality, in Germany), on the birth and death of few noted personalities, which they retrieved (In today’s language, it was their “big data”). They were unable to solve the puzzle with the deterministic mathematical model. Therefore, they invited Prof Colin Maclaurin from Edinburgh University, UK, to help them with calculations. Prof. Colin sat together with Wallace and Webster to determine the amount of money each priest to shell out, per year, till they die, to ensure that their wives get handsome sum till they die (or they re-marry). They generated the concept of Insurance and Pension, in doing these calculations… A new domain of Mathematics was born, called as Statistics…!! The concept of probability came into existence and the Insurance and pension plans worked so well for these clergymen that the probability theory was almost 100% hit!! They offered that if a priest pays 6 Pounds per year, till they live, they could offer a handsome sum or 25 Pounds per year to their wives, as their pension, after they die..!! It was awesome solution… for the priests, and then to the public, at large.

Insurance and Pension plans were floated world-wide. Two clergymen were responsible to enhance the domain of deterministic mathematics to probabilistic statistics..!!!!

Now we enter Story 1 again, after 200 years..!!

Story 1 – Take 2: Year 1904 – People had started thinking that the Newton’s Laws of motion did not fit well for the subatomic particles. Albert Einstein, along with few other noted Physicists were thinking over the Laws of motion, propagation of wave, differences between wave and a particle, and explanation of motion of subatomic particles. Now these guys looked into the other “compartment” of Statistics which was evolved by now. They used the concept of probability. Wave particle duality was proposed by Werner Heisenberg around this time. Quantum mechanics was born..! In quantum mechanics, events produced by the interaction of subatomic particles happen in jumps (quantum leaps), with a probability rather than definite outcomes. This concept of probability used by these scientists was an outcome of the Insurance policies which Scottish priests had demanded..!!

If Heisenberg, Max Planck and Albert Einstein would have not looked “over” their compartment of Physics and Chemistry, and peep inside the compartment of Scottish Clergymen and their developed Insurance and Pension models, they would have never thought of the explanation of waves and special theories of relativity, and the movement of sub-atomic particles.

The Universe unfolded itself to reveal its model of “possibilities”…

Issac Newton, Werner Heisenberg, Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Alexender Webster or Robert Wallace were mere instruments of nature, to reveal its story …!!

And it took a long journey of human kind, of over 220 years to reveal few facts…!!! As we take a leap towards Quantum Computing, in 2020, are we making a new beginning to reveal yet another untold story of this Universe… waiting to unfold??? Well, we don’t know… Humans have to wait and see…. See outside their own compartments, using their raw brain… and maybe imagination. Let the creativity get some mental space and fresh ideas would nourish!!

(The stories are an inspiration from the Novel “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari)

Published by sangeeta kale

This is Sangeeta Kale. I work as a Professor in Physics and research is my passion. Studied from University of Pune and University of Maryland (College Park, USA), I work mainly on Sensors and Nanotechnology. Fitness, Marathon running, car rally driving and travelling are few of my other passions. Correlating science to various aspects is the intention of this blog: right from technological advances to humanity and philosophy.!

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  1. Innovative correlation often lead to unthinkable concepts/outcome with long term bearing on Science and the Scientists.
    Very well and logically compiled write up.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Is this the reason that Non Compartmentalized , School and College Dropouts have made the greatest innovations and enterprising ventures in the the 19th 20th 21st Century

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Excellent thought ma’am!

    It’s true as the knowledge we have is still limited to what ever we have acquired till now.. there is huge scope of improvement and new theories are possible as we keep on expanding the knowledge we are gaining without limiting ourselves to one domain..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nice article ma’am, it felt like “window of possibilities” in the compartment lockdown.


  5. Interesting article ma’am . I hope it inspires all the readers to use the other compartments of brain and there by a change in how we look into science and technology .

    Liked by 1 person

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